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Dinners with the Devil and Dinosaurs... and Dad

The repeat nightmares of four-year old me that still haunt me.

By Lena FolkertPublished 5 months ago • 14 min read
5
"Nightmare" © Lena Folkert, created by author using Wombo Dream Ai

Dear Reader, I've included a trigger tag, but please be warned the following contains material that may be difficult to read, especially for those with a history of abuse.

***********

It was the bread roll that always stood out to me. The one thing I couldn't quite get a handle on. The spaghetti made sense, of course. I loved spaghetti. Still do. (Though, it doesn't love me.)

We never had it back then, though. It was a sign of luxury to us. Wealth. Health. Happiness. It was practically a Chinese blessing in food form. Spaghetti and meatballs. The ultimate family meal for the delightfully lucky middle class.

Of course, we were not middle class. We were no class. So poor that the food stamp office wouldn't approve our application because they were convinced my parents were lying about their paltry income.

How could a family of four possibly survive a single, brutal Alaskan winter on only $200 a month. Sure, we didn't have any utility bills. You have to have gas, electricity, or running water to pay utilities. We didn't have to worry about trash collection either. In fact, trash disposal was quite an exciting day for us as we journeyed to the town dump and disposed of the limited trash we had... and we shopped for new treasures! My sister and I learned early that one man's trash really could be another's treasure. You just have to know when and where to look. My dad's first suit. My first bike. Fishing poles. Even a boat! Yep. Trash day had a whole new meaning for us growing up. Out with the old. In with the new... er... "like new", at least!

Yep. Mom was the queen of the dumpster dive. She even taught us how to safely skate around the bears who came to fill up on all the food that the middle class tossed out. We, on the other hand, never threw out food. You can't throw something away if you never had it in the first place, after all.

Ah, but I digress. Where was I?

Oh, yes. Spaghetti. To a little girl living on flour and water with the occasional discount livers or road-kill moose, spaghetti was the holy grail of dinners. And once a year or so, when the dividend checks came from the Alaskan government, mom would splurge and buy noodles, Prego spaghetti sauce, whole milk, and just maybe... parmesan cheese and meat. And we would feast.

But still, the bread rolls... They elude me to this day. Thirty plus years I've racked my brain to figure out where little four-year-old Lena would have seen bread at all, let alone in roll form. And then... well, then there was the dinosaur... Now, that one. That one is an enigma wrapped in a scale and claw-covered riddle.

The Jurassic Park franchise had not made its debut yet, and it was a little too early for me to be reading Crichton novels back then, so that's not where my subconscious came up with the idea. Well-meaning but misguided friends and therapists have suggested I got the notion from television, forcing me to promptly remind them that you can't really learn about something from a tv if you don't have one. And you sure as shootin' can't have a functioning television if you don't even have electricity, or outlets even.

No. The first time I turned on a television, or even a light switch for that matter, was long after after my fifth birthday.

I figure I must've gotten the notion of both from other kids, maybe. But then, back then, we didn't really know any other kids. Perhaps, it was the children's toys in the grocery store that we rushed past on our way to the baking aisle for the largest bag of flour mom could afford.

As I look back on it, so much of it doesn't really fit in with our lives as they were back then. The bread roll and spaghetti are just the start. The long dining table with four chairs filled with our happy family sharing a meal in the candlelight... yeah. Now that I think about it... that's the strangest part of all.

For one, there was no dinner table in our one room cabin. No dining chairs, or any chairs for the matter. And while there was a plethora of candles in our electricity-free cabin, the concept of a happy, smiling family sitting down to dinner was completely foreign to me.

Frankly, that alone would have been a disturbing nightmare for me back then. But then there was the dinosaur. Out of the open-faced attic it jumped. Right onto the dining table. Bread rolls were sent flying in every direction. Screams filled the cold, dimly lit room.

And for some unknown reason, I felt the need to dive to the floor to save the bread rolls. Of course, bread... back then... talk about luxury items!

As I grabbed the rolls and looked back to the table, the fear set in fully. The terror. There he stood. A Tyrannosaurus Rex in in the middle of our large dining table. His tiny but terrifying arms reaching out for my mother and older sister.

Then there was my father...

Not afraid.

Not being attacked.

Not leaping to anyone's defense.

No. He was laughing.

Morphing before me. His teeth and fingers transforming into horrible weapons, pointy and evil.

I screamed and leaped toward the table, reaching out. For my mom. My sister. I had to save them.

But I was too late.

Now, the dinosaur was laughing. My father and the dinosaur sharing a snicker over the destruction and the terror.

And then, they were the same. My father, the dinosaur. DynoDad. And not like the sitcom one. There was no canned laughter in the background. No jolly belly shaking or silly monster under the sink that ate the dinner scraps. (I'm giving away my age with this reference, I realize!)

No, that dream did not inspire laughter back then, and it still doesn't to this day, despite its comical oddities and confusing origins.

There was no laughter at all in those early days. And there was no laughter for a long time after.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I become convinced... I didn't need inspiration from another source to conjure up the concept of a dinosaur at all. My mother was one of Jehovah's Witnesses and had raised us firmly in the faith, reading scriptures to us in the womb.

I'd heard of the Devil. The Great Dragon...

Maybe that was all I needed. That's what he was to me, anyway. My dad. The Devil. The dragon standing on the nonexistent dinner table laughing over the carnage of our family.

That's always when I woke up. Screaming for my dinosaur dad to leave my mother and sister alive for me.

There were only two parts of that dream that made sense to me.

The attic that the dinosaur jumped out of was the first. We had not such structure in our home, but our grandmother had a lovely (and terrifying to a four-year-old) loft that overlooked her living room.

Visits to grandmother's house were much better than the storybook version. Her house was the safe place. The haven from the wolves. But the loft was always a question mark to me. A source of wonder, and of fear.

With a well-worn copy of "Where the Sidewalk Ends" propped over my chest and my feet dangling over the edge of her black, leather couch, I would stare up at that loft and wonder what wonderful and terrifying things might be hiding in it. It really only makes sense that the dinosaurs of my dreams would emerge from that mysterious place, slithering from their sideways dimension and taking on an even scarier form.

And my father morphing into a blood-thirsty, evil beast of an animal. Well... that's the second aspect of the dream that made absolute, complete, clear as crystal water sense to me. In fact, it was the least surprising part of the dream. Terrifying, by all means. But not surprising.

And in the end, even more terrifying... for its lack of surprise.

Of course, that was not the only dream that involved dinners with dad. Nor was it the only dream that involved the Devil. You might remember now the title of this chapter:

"Dinners..." Plural. More than one. But put your mind to rest. This one will go faster.

It too, however, begins with an enigma.

The tablecloth. The booths. The diner. Mind-boggling.

Well, if the concept of a family dinner and spaghetti was so foreign and luxurious to me back then, then the idea of the four of us eating together in one of those classic, retro diners with the maroon booths and red and white-checkered tablecloths was especially foreign.

The best I can figure in both cases is that some wonderful family friend must have taken us to lunch at the local diner, because when I was about twelve, and we finally had some money rolling in, we ate at that diner, and wouldn't you know? Maroon booth. Red and white-checkered tablecloths. My mind? Boggled!

But that was the only truly confusing aspect of that dream. The rest was pretty mundane. Well... explicable might be a better word for it.

Mundane? Well, if the word means commonplace or consistent with one's usual surroundings... then it's about right for me. However, the look on the faces of those I've related this dream to cause me to wonder if they have a much different idea of the word, mundane.

So, there I am. In this nice, cozy diner. A man is sitting at a table for four in the middle of the cafe. All of the other tables are empty. But standing around the man... animals. All kinds of glorious animals. Two-by-two they stand, hover, and huddle. They pour in from the doorway, every animal the world has known. Cramming into this tiny space.

Are you getting a mental picture?

Perhaps, in place of the diner... a wooden box? A really big one.

Again, we were raised with a Bible in each hand. And my favorite book ever was "My Book of Bible Stories," published by the Watchtower and Tract Society. A wonderful book. And one of the first pictures within it is the great boat. The Ark.

So, that's the idea little Jehovah's Witness Lena conjured up as she dreamed this cafe filled with animals. A little strange, but the mind does weird things during the REM cycle, after all.

So, you have the picture? Great. Now add a pretty, blond-haired girl to the picture. Four-year's old, crazy skinny for her bone structure, a little pallid in the face from undernourishment, her eyes constantly scanning the room for one of those pizzas that usually can be found in a restaurant with plaid tablecloths.

She sits in the man's lap. He gently strokes her hair and talks softly to her. He's particularly handsome. Also blonde. Well built. All around pleasant to look at. And he seems kind to her. Speaking to her with a smile. He gestures to all the animals, and she looks around in wonder.

But there's something that's just not quite right. You can't put your finger on it. Well, here's what I saw... as the little girl in his lap.

I was hungry. That was nothing new. But I was confused because I thought I was going to a pizza party. My stomach rumbled with a fury even I'd not known before. And then the man waved me over and pulled me onto his lap. He strokes my hair gently. He's attractive, and I think he's nice to look at.

Then I wonder... what does that mean? Why does he make my stomach flutter? Why do I sit in his lap? He's a stranger. I look up as he strokes my hair. He's smiling down at me. His face is beautiful. I want to reach up and touch his cheek and feel his lips.

Then, I wonder again... What does that mean? Why would I want to touch a man's face? What's this feeling in my stomach? It's no longer fluttering. It's roiling. Is it hunger?

No. It's that same feeling I get when I can hear a bear in the woods when I'm picking berries. It's not my stomach at all. It's my mind. It's telling me something's wrong.

"Run!", it says.

"Run for your life!"

I try to stand up. I don't like the feel of his lap anymore. His hand strokes my hair a little too hard. His smile is a little too wide. His voice is not soft anymore. It's cold. Like metal in a snow storm. And his free hand is fixed to my waist, holding me so tightly I can feel his fingernails digging through my dress and into my skin.

I cry out and try to leave. "Let me go!"

Then he stops. His knee no longer bouncing. His face no longer smiling. He stops petting my hair and points to the doorway.

"Look!", he says.

I look. There, behind all the animals around us, they struggle to get inside. My mother's face ravaged with fear and anger. She holds my sister to her side so tightly. Tears streaming down both their faces as they reach out to me.

But they're pushed farther back. Out of the doorway. I can only see their hands gripping the door frame. I can hear my mother's screams.

I struggle, but I can't move. I reach out, but my hands are suddenly tied together. I look up, and I wonder how I thought he was handsome. His hair is still blonde. His eyes still blue. But I'm not fooled any longer.

"If you're a really, really good girl," he says...

"If you do exactly what I say... I'll let them come inside."

The feeling in my stomach intensifies. I'm no longer hungry. I'm nauseous. My heart pounds against my chest as I struggle to find the air in my lungs. My back goes rigid. His hand has moved lower. I know what he wants. I see his thoughts.

A part of me wonders how I could know these things. I no longer want to touch his face. I want to run. Run and hide. But he smiles at me again. As cold and evil as a snake.

"If you want them to make it into paradise with you, Lena. You'll do what I want you to."

I look back to the arched doorway. My mother's face has reappeared. She pleads with me. I know she doesn't want me to do it. She wants me to run. But I don't want to make it to paradise if she's not with me.

I begin to cry. Not snorting or sobbing. Just small, cold, sad tears running down my cheeks as I look back up to the man to tell him I'll do whatever he wants.

With ice in my veins and bile in my throat, I look into his face. His eyes are no longer blue. They are as brown as his hair. His smile has changed. And so is he. He is no longer the devil in disguise. He is no longer handsome on any level.

His eyes and his smile are all too familiar. I swallow my tears. I swallow the vomit I can taste.

"Okay, dad. I'll do whatever you want. I'll be a good little girl. Just please, don't keep mommy out of the paradise."

***********

Thirty-three years have passed since I first had this dream. I know exactly the time, because I remember the first night it woke me up. I remember how I sat on the corner of the small cot I shared with my sister with my knees pressed as far into my chest as they would go. I stared at the curtain that separated our "bedroom" from our parents'. I remember that night spent in terror.

Thirty-three years since I had this dream. I was four. But it was not the last time I had it. Neither of these dreams were quickly fading. They lived with me for years and years.

But the affects... the lingering questions... heart-breaking realizations... and terrible, terrible interpretations have tormented me down to this day.

As to the latter, to my knowledge, my father never touched me in the way that the dream suggested. However, I cannot help but continue to wonder how a four-year-old child would have such a dream. And I wonder how she would have that fear. That instinct in her gut.

In both of these dreams, the little girl wants to kill him. I was the little girl. He was my dad. What little girl dreams of killing her father? In terrible and despicable methods. Other than Lizzie Borden, of course.

So, am I the psychopath?

Sometimes, I wonder.

Other times, I just think...

Dinosaurs and the Devil.... Just another dinner with dear old Dad.

CONTENT WARNING
5

About the Creator

Lena Folkert

Alaskan Grown Freelance Writer 🤍 Lover of Prose

Former Deckhand & Barista 🤍 Always a Pleaser & Eggshell-Walker

Lifelong Animal Lover & Whisperer 🤍 Ever the Student & Seeker

Traveler 🤍 Dreamer 🤍 Wanderer

Happily Lost 🤍 Luckily in Love

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (5)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock5 months ago

    Fascinating, & exceptionally well told. Dreams that continue to haunt & make you question why they ever were & what they could possibly mean. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself with us, Lena.

  • Babs Iverson5 months ago

    Fabulously written!!! How can we dream of things unknown? That's so relatable!!! Sending hugs!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Alex H Mittelman 5 months ago

    Great work!

  • E.A. Wilcox5 months ago

    So. Much. Impact. This was deep and frightful and real and raw and authentic and and so well written. What a journey, battle, experience (whatever best fits this). I also really love the cover photo on a more side note kind of thing.

  • Thanks for sharing this powerful piece, and the images it brings. That is very frightening and hope this is helpful to others with similar experiences

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